Meizu MX 4-core (unlocked) review:

Meizu MX 4-core (unlocked)

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The lock screen for the MX 4-core looks almost iOS in nature. Sarah Tew/CNET

With the same UI that practically begged for an Apple lawsuit on the Meizu MX, the MX 4-core's interface is a hybrid of standard Android and iOS. Three main home screens slide horizontally in iPhone fashion and there's no separate application tray, either, a staple Android feature. Instead apps are added to the home screen when installed. While this layout is uncluttered, I had issues finding key apps I knew were installed, such as Gmail. In fact I had to open it from the Android Market before a shortcut finally appeared -- that's disconcerting. I ran into the same quirk on the original MX even though Meizu chalked it up to my first MX sample being an early engineering unit.

Also, integration with social-networking sites like Facebook and Twitter could be better. The phone book, for example, doesn't pull in pictures or other data from these services. Additionally I couldn't find a way to add Facebook or Twitter accounts to the phone as you would with most Android devices. You can create folders iOS-style for storing away shortcuts, but since ICS now supports this feature, it's not as slick of a trick as it used to be.

As an unlocked handset, one of the more appealing features of the Meizu MX 4-core is its ability to operate on nine different frequencies (GSM: 850/900/1800/1900MHz; HSDPA: 850/900/1700/1900/2100MHz). If you have a Micro-SIM card with service from, say T-Mobile or AT&T, the handset shouldn't have a problem latching on.

Equipped with an 8-megapixel sensor and LED flash, I was pleasantly surprised by the Meizu MX 4-core's camera performance. The phone snapped indoor still-life images that were clear, with proper white balance and vibrant colors. Details, though, were a bit soft. As with many phone cameras, the Meizu MX 4-core also had trouble freezing fast-moving subjects under low light without its flash.

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Indoor still-life images were clear with vibrant colors, but details were soft. Brian Bennett/CNET
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Capturing fast moving kids proved difficult under low light. Brian Bennett/CNET

Outdoors the handset captured good photos as well with bright colors, provided there was enough light. Colors popped, too, but again detail wasn't as crisp as I would have liked.

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Outside, colors were bright, but details could have been sharper. Brian Bennett/CNET
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With ample light, outdoor shots looked good. Brian Bennett/CNET

The MX 4-core's camera doesn't offer much in the way of extra settings, but there are a few capture modes including Panorama, Smile, and Burst. You can manually select the ISO, too, but it tops out at 800.

The phone can record video in full 1080p quality as well; I found that details were sharp and clear enough. That said, color looked muted and washed out even in bright sunshine.

I tested the unlocked GSM Meizu MX 4-core on AT&T's network in New York. Voice quality was rock-solid and I didn't experience any dropped calls or other mishaps. Voices through the Meizu's tiny earpiece were warm, rich, and lifelike. Like many small smartphones I've used, volume wasn't extremely loud. Callers on the other end said they didn't hear static or distortion either but did report that my voice sounded slightly muffled.

As for data, you're strictly limited to 3G GSM networks. With an AT&T SIM card inserted, the Meizu MX 4-core returned average download speeds of 2.5 Mbps while uploads came in at just under 1Mbps. That kind of throughput pales in comparison to new 4G LTE connections that typically clock in at 10 to 15 Mbps down and 10 Mbps for uploads.

Since it's a true quad-core fire-breather, I was very eager to put the Meizu MX 4-core through its paces. The 1.4GHz quad-core A9 processor driven Meizu cruised through the Linpack benchmark (multithread) in 1.43 seconds, logging a score of 118.197 megaflops. The HTC One X trounced this result, though, firing back with an impressive score of 180.199 MFLOPs in 0.94 second.

Investigating further, I ran the grueling Quadrant benchmark on both handsets. Interestingly the devices turned in comparable performances, with the Meizu MX 4-core notching an overall score of 4,103. That just edged out the HTC One X's showing of 4,009 on the same test. Reflecting these numbers, the MX 4-core felt nimble and responsive to me either when launching apps or flipping through menus.

Powered by a 1,700 mAh lithium polymer battery, the MX 4-core lasted a decent but not terribly long time on my anecdotal drain test. It persevered for 6 hours and 38 minutes, playing an HD video clip continuously. Still, that's a few minutes longer than the HTC One X (6 hours, 35 minutes) but nowhere near the Samsung Galaxy S3's run time of 9 hours and 24 minutes. In everyday use, the Meizu had enough juice to get through a typical work day, but I recommend charging it up overnight.

I can understand if not many people will be drawn to the Meizu MX 4-core. Just finding the device, which is intended for mainland Chinese and Hong Kong markets only, will prove tricky. Also, the phone's unsubsidized $530 (4,099 HKD) price is pretty steep. Additionally the Meizu's whole iPhone aesthetic, which may have once been appealing, has lost its luster due to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. JB is faster, packs more features, and you can have it for about $450 on the unlocked Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Still, if you really love the idea of using a handset with modern Android power in a Apple-esque package, then by all means scoop up the MX 4-core on your next jaunt to Shanghai.

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